Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 48-49 and Acts 23:11-35

Sirach 48 – Elija – A prophet who “arose like a fire” brought famine on the land for the sins committed. He was “taken up in the whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses” (48:8-9). And there is an allusion to immortality for those who fall asleep “in love” [of God]. They “too will have life” (48:11).

Then Elisha – He was filled with Elijah’s spirit. “No task was too hard for him, and even in death his body prophesied” (48:13) for that the dead were restored to life.

The people, however, remained unfaithful until they were scattered.

Hezekiah “fortified his city and laid on a water supply inside it; with iron he tunneled through the rock and constructed cisterns” (48:17). Sennacherib invaded, but the people were “delivered” by the hand of Isaiah (48:20).

Isaiah was “Trustworthy in his vision” (48:22). “He revealed the future to the end of time, and hidden things long before they happened” (48:25).

Sirach 49 – Josiah – Memory of him is sweet: “[H]e set his heart on the Lord, in godless times he upheld the cause of religion” (49:3).

Aside from these celebrated men, the people “all heaped wrong on wrong. . .they disregarded the Law of the Most High” (49:4), and so they finally disappeared. “The holy, chosen city was burnt down, her streets were left deserted, as Jeremiah had predicted” (49:6).

Nehemiah is remembered for rebuilding the walls and reestablishing the city.

Then in an apparent retrospect, the author returns briefly to a few names already mentioned: “No one else has ever been created on earth to equal Enoch, for he was taken up from earth. And no one else ever born has been like Joseph, the leader of his brothers, the prop of his people; his bones were honored. Shem and Seth were honored among men, but above every living creature is Adam” (49:14-16).  It’s a little confusing to have this retrospect and puzzling that Adam should now be on the list. Perhaps the author is just celebrating “man” for Adam certainly is mostly remembered for his “fall” and not for any real accomplishment. 

Acts 23:11-35 – The Roman commander who had originally taken Paul into custody when the controversy among Jews of different persuasions had become a threat to the peace now realizes Paul will likely not survive the battle that has broken out. He orders Paul taken to a Roman fort nearby.

Here, in the fort, the Lord comes to Paul and assures him: “Don't be afraid! You have given your witness for me here in Jerusalem, and you must also do the same in Rome” (23:11).

A conspiracy to kill Paul develops among the Jews, involving more than 40 men. They ask to have Paul brought before the Sanhedrin again “to get more accurate information about him” (23:15) – they will kill him then. Paul’s nephew hears about the plot and goes to the centurions. The commander – Claudius Lysias - orders some 300 soldiers to escort Paul to the Governor – Antoninus Felix – in Caesarea. He was Roman Governor between 52 and 59 or 60 AD. He orders Paul to be kept under guard in his headquarters until Paul’s accusers can be sent for.

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